It took our microwave blowing up to get me back to chili from scratch and home made pasta sauce. The brownies from a recipe came next along with scalloped potatoes and ham. I fought getting a new one after three months but it does have its place – not for cooking dinner though.
The slow insidious displacement of home cooked and communally shared family meals by the industrial food system has fattened our nation and weakened our family ties. In 1900, 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. In 2010, 50 percent were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s. Most family meals happen about three times a week, last less than 20 minutes and are spent watching television or texting while each family member eats a different microwaved “food.” More meals are eaten in the minivan than the kitchen.
We complain of not having enough time to cook, but Americans spend more time watching cooking on the Food Network than actually preparing their own meals. In his series, “Food Revolution,” Jamie Oliver showed us how we have raised a generation of Americans who can’t recognize a single vegetable or fruit, and don’t know how to cook.
That we need nutritionists and doctors to teach us how to eat is a sad reflection of the state of society. These are things our grandparents knew without thinking twice about them. What foods to eat, how to prepare them, and an understanding of why you should share them in family and community have been embedded in cultural traditions since the dawn of human society.
The sustainability of our planet, our health, and our food supply are inextricably linked. The ecology of eating — the importance of what you put on your fork — has never been more critical to our survival as a nation or as a species. The earth will survive our self-destruction. But we may not.
The extraordinary thing is that we have the ability to move large corporations and create social change by our collective choices. We can reclaim the family dinner, reviving and renewing it. Doing so will help us learn how to find and prepare real food quickly and simply, teach our children by example how to connect, build security, safety and social skills, meal after meal, day after day, year after year.